During mindfulness practice, we will all recognise the experience of being taken away from the present moment. It’s important to remember that during mindfulness we are not trying to will away our feelings and thoughts by brute force. Instead we want to be able to notice our bodies changing conditions and circumstances to find an acceptance of the present moment. There are two hindrances to this that we’ll think through today.
The first hindrance is known as desire, or craving: if I have this, things will be better or different. It could be as small a thing as finding, during your meditation practice, that the mind is fixating on ‘getting peaceful’, and how great it will be once you have got there. Craving shows up at work – ‘if I solve this problem, then this week will have been worth it’; at home: ‘if only my spouse did this one thing differently’; and in the park: ‘if I just get Grandma’s 90th planned, I can relax’. It’s a normal function of mind, and yet we can also notice areas of our lives where it may have more power over us than we wish it to.
The second hindrance is aversion, or ill will: I don’t like this, or this is hurting me. In meditation practice, this can show up as ‘this practice is too long’, or ‘I don’t like the voice on the track’. Or the mind can be off somewhere else entirely, ruminating about something at work, at home, or elsewhere.
Both craving and aversion typically trigger old networked patterns of reaction. We reach for Facebook, berate the spouse, or feel disappointed when Friday 5pm arrives and the work problem is unsolved. We procrastinate, deny, stew, or snap. In the moment, these patterns happen so quickly that we feel we have little choice over them, and yet they can carry us a long way.
This week, whether in the body scan practice or just in daily life, see if it’s possible to just notice when these phenomena are arising in the mind. You can mentally ‘post-it’ them: ok, here’s craving mind. Here is aversion mind.
By placing a mental ‘post-it’ on these as they arise, you’ll start to get a sense of how these patterns show up in your own mind and reactions throughout the day. Bring an attitude of curiosity and gentleness to this, as best you can: this is not an exercise in eradicating aspects of mind, but rather in recognising them. Witnessing our own minds as they play out in real time offers us useful information: it helps us see more clearly what may be happening, and equips us to decide how we may wish to respond.
The practice this week is a body scan. I hope you have a good week!